The No-Nonsense Guide to Controlling Inflammation.

As physiotherapists, we work daily with patients dealing with acute and chronic injuries in which inflammation plays a role. Our bodies have an innate ability for healing and recovery. Still, sometimes excess inflammation can get in the way and slow your progress and healing. This article delves into acute and chronic inflammation, anti-inflammatory foods, and the role of stress and exercise in reducing excess inflammation in our bodies.

Inflammation: Is it a Good Thing?

Your body is truly a remarkable machine. Over the eons, human bodies have evolved sophisticated systems to deal with disturbances caused by the environment. Infection, irritation, and injury are all dealt with by the complex processes of inflammation. Although not often recognized, acute or good inflammation is evidence that your immune system is doing its job. Redness, swelling, and pain are all common clues, and this would be the case in an acute sprain or strain. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a sign that not only is the immune system functioning incorrectly, but it’s also becoming confused and turning on itself. The results can lead to chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, and chronic pain. Many medical conditions stem from the body incorrectly perceiving a threat, such as an allergic or autoimmune response. Manage chronic inflammation, and you manage the root of these diseases.

Why Food is Medicine

Hippocrates penned the well-known quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” His advice from over 2000 years ago still holds true (or perhaps truer) today than ever. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects.” said professor Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard School of Public Health. The great thing about anti-inflammatory foods is that you can reap their benefits by simply eating them instead of other inflammatory foods. For example, switch out vegetable oil and margarine for oleic acid-rich olive oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil. Replace red meat, often high in salt and cholesterol, with oily fish for a shot of Omega-3 fatty acids. Coffee can be quite acidic and inflammatory. Instead, have a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea and snack on nuts, seeds, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Herbs and spices offer huge doses of antioxidants and plant phenols that reduce oxidative stress; including garlic, ginger, and turmeric are both versatile and delicious. When craving refined carbs or sugar hits, indulge in some fruit or dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.

Take it easy: How Stress Increases Inflammation

Cortisol is the hormone that takes our thoughts and feelings about the world and translates them into real, physiological stress on the cells. Regularly flooding the body with cortisol and adrenaline can have a cascading effect on various hormones in your body and pump-up inflammation. Stress is one of your immune system’s greatest enemies. It’s important to sleep at least 7 or 8 hours a day to allow your tissues time to repair. Meditation or another relaxing hobby are great ways to give yourself the rest you need. Ever notice how you catch a cold right after prolonged stress? Depression, anxiety, chronic worry, unresolved psychological issues, and insomnia can all aggravate the body’s immune response and leave it susceptible to infection. Signs that your body may be overwhelmed with stress include:

  • Frequent rash breakouts 
  • Ulcers or irritable bowel symptoms 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Neck or back pain, spasms, general aches 
  • Dizziness, faintness, or brain fog 
  • Changes in appetite or libido 
  • Trembling, shaking or a feeling of being on edge

Exercise – But Moderately

As physiotherapists, we are big cheerleaders of regular and ongoing exercise. Exercise that elevates your heart rate has several benefits.

Here are a few of the benefits of exercise: 

  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis 
  • Improved oxygen delivery throughout the body 
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, high blood pressure, and stroke 
  • Reduced risk of colon and breast cancers Decreased risk of diabetes. 

The paradox with exercise is that although an intense workout can spike inflammation, it also reduces your long-term risk for chronic inflammation. The trick is having regular moderate strength and cardio training sessions that leave you feeling challenged and energized yet not completely wiped out.

Keeping an Eye on Toxins

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about environmental stressors like pollution, smog, dust, pollen, and mold. Still, there are small ways to make sure your home is safe and clean as possible. Invest in natural or homemade household cleaners and install water filters and possibly air purifiers if you suspect long-term exposure to pollution. Of course, nothing beats getting outdoors and filling your lungs with fresh air.

The Importance of Vitamin D

A lack of vitamin D can be associated with Crohn’s disease, MS, and other autoimmune conditions. Just 10 minutes in moderate sunshine daily can help your body synthesize the vitamin D it needs. Since we live in Edmonton, getting Vitamin D supplements can be a great way to get Vitamin D in the winter months. Oily fish, liver, and egg yolks are also excellent sources of dietary vitamin D.

When it comes to the roller-coaster of inflammation, it can sometimes be hard to tease out cause and effect. And sometimes, inflammatory conditions have a way of causing a domino effect of symptoms through every system of the body. As physiotherapists, we want to help you improve your health and movement. There are several practical steps that you can take to help reduce the inflammatory load your body may be experiencing. As with any health issue, it’s important to seek your healthcare provider’s guidance to help you create a plan specific to you.

Please book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our clinics in Edmonton, including RiverbendBelvedereNamaoWest Henday or our newest clinic in Southgate Centre.